Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.
- The Senate Commerce Committee this week held a hearing on the nomination of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel for another five-year term at the agency. The Chairwoman’s opening remarks focused on broadband availability and called communications technologies “the infrastructure of opportunity.” Her opening comments included no mention of broadcast issues (Rosenworcel Remarks). Senators’ questions were also light on broadcast issues, though the Chairwoman voiced her support for tax credits for journalism operations that would be made possible by a bill being considered by Congress and for bringing back the Minority Media Tax Credit. She said the FCC will find ways to encourage broadcasters to use their FCC license to support local communities. A hearing on fellow Democrat Gigi Sohn’s nomination to fill a vacant FCC seat hearing has been delayed, which may be a signal that Sohn’s nomination is more controversial than Rosenworcel’s. In case you missed it, we posted on the Broadcast Law Blog an article highlighting the broadcast issues that a full-strength, five-Commissioner FCC might try to tackle.
- FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington has started to make known his positions on broadcast issues, addressing a Massachusetts Association of Broadcasters awards program and sharing his thoughts. Simington joined the FCC in December 2020 in the closing days of the Trump Administration and broadcast issues were not covered deeply during his confirmation hearing. The Commissioner called broadcasting the tentpole of American media and something that must be preserved. He remarked that broadcasting is a “window into what’s happening where we live, a tether to our civic and cultural identities, and a check against political corruption.” He will encourage the Commission to consider broadcasting’s role in the media marketplace and further relax broadcast ownership regulations in the face of explosive growth and competition from Big Tech companies like Facebook and Google. (MAB Remarks)
- The FCC opened a rulemaking to consider allowing FM broadcast license applicants to verify directional antenna patterns through computer modeling instead of physical testing. Current FCC rules require applicants to provide measurements using either a full-size mockup or scale model of the antenna and supporting structures to measure the pattern generated. The proposed rule changes would put FM and LPFM applicants on equal footing with their AM radio and television counterparts, which are already permitted to rely on computer modeling to verify directional antenna patterns. The comment period will be set when the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is published in the Federal Register. (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking)
- The FCC announced that it will hold Auction 112 in June 2022 to award construction permits for 27 full-power TV stations. It released a Public Notice with proposed procedures for the auction (Public Notice). If you are interested in bidding for a new TV station, take a look at the list of available construction permits. Most of the channels are in smaller communities in western states (Construction Permit List). Comments on the proposed auction procedures are due by December 13. Reply comments are due by December 23.
- A Florida college TV station faces a $6,000 fine in connection with its license renewal application for failing to upload its quarterly issues/programs lists on time. The station uploaded four lists more than one year late, four lists between one month and one year late, and three lists between one day and one month late. The station also noted in its renewal application that a handful of quarterly lists were mistakenly posted to the station’s website instead of its public file. Even though the lists eventually made their way to the public file, the Video Division reminded the station that “employee acts or omissions, such as clerical errors in failing to file required forms, do not excuse violations.” Pay close attention to filing dates and deadlines, so you do not find your operation looking at a monetary penalty. (Notice of Apparently Liability for Forfeiture)
- In other confirmation news, Jonathan Kanter was confirmed by a bipartisan vote of the Senate to lead the Department of Justice’s antitrust division. The division examines transactions and mergers that could affect competition in the marketplace (including in the broadcast industry) and provides opinions on broadcast marketplace competition. The division also oversees the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. (Vote Summary)